VALLEY FORGE, PA (3/19/21)—Interim General Secretary Dr. C. Jeff Woods released a statement on March 19, 2021, following the March 16, 2021 shootings in Atlanta, Ga. Read the statement below.
The American Baptist Churches USA mourns over the tragic shooting deaths that occurred in the Atlanta area on Tuesday evening, March 16, 2021. The shooter has been charged with eight counts of murder in connection with the attacks. The fact that six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent turns mourning into outrage. Hate too easily manifests itself into violent acts.
As a denomination blessed with ethnic diversity, we have an opportunity to grow in our understanding and compassion from one another and have our actions informed by one another, countering the limitations of our human biases and blind spots. Together, we have a responsibility to help America do better and be better by doing the hard work of fighting against racism and hate in all its forms.
The Alliance of Asian American Baptist Churches, a group of American Baptist clergy and lay leaders representing Asian American Baptists in the American Baptist Churches USA, issued a statement about the growing anti-Asian violence across our nation at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost a year after this statement we continue to see the disturbing impact of the use of the term “China virus” and other rhetoric that results in misplaced fear and blame and marks individuals and communities of Asian-descent as everyday targets of hate and violence. No one should live in fear of walking down the street or showing up at work just because of their physical characteristics. We call out that the intentional use of pointed and suggestive terminology has been a weapon used throughout our nation’s history by White supremacists and others who aim to objectify and devalue persons of color, and we denounce this as antithetical to the teachings of our Christian faith.
American Baptists have historically walked side by side in support of Asian Americans as evidenced by our ministry to and with Asian Americans placed in internment camps during WW II, even when such acts were in contrast to the messages from our own national leaders. We still stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters and continue to lift up their voices by urging American Baptists to continue educating themselves about the impact of hate attacks and violence within Asian American families and communities and join in the paths of advocacy as identified by these communities.
When one hurts, we all hurt. “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it,” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NRSV).
Our legacy of standing with those in harm’s way is pervasive and ubiquitous. Our Anti-Racism Task Force is working to develop resources for individuals, congregations, and institutions to combat racism in all its forms. The work of anti-racism begins with individuals, but is leveraged through institutions. While it seems that the frequency of shootings have the power to numb our senses, the news must never desensitize our passion for justice and our desire to change the culture, environment, and hateful rhetoric that gives rise to such despicable crimes.
“The [ABCUSA] Anti-Racism Task Force engages continuously with the vision of a reordered world. Through biblical reflection, meditation, discussion, sharing, hearing, and listening to diverse historical, theological, personal, and communal experiences and stories we undertake a journey of discovery. As we read various books and academic research, we seek to better understand ourselves in the context of our families, cultures, and our various sociopolitical systems.” (Anti-racism task force, March 2021)
Dr. Raimundo Barreto, member of the ABCUSA Board of General Ministries Executive Committee, comments, “While all sectors of society must voice their support, I think that Christian institutions and clergy, in particular, have a moral obligation to show support and solidarity to our Asian-American sisters and brothers, especially when the perpetrator of this terrible act has used his Christian convictions to justify his acts and dehumanize his victims.”
While the work of dismantling racism must begin within our own lives and institutions, American Baptists are also called to speak a prophetic voice in all our circles of influence. The 2,800 documented cases of attacks against Asians and Asian-Americans in 2020, as reported by the organization Stop AAPI Hate, is a clarion call for all citizens to stand up, speak up, and denounce hate language when it occurs, walk against crowds that dehumanize others, resist the temptations of a disjointed society, and live a life that exemplifies respect, peace and dignity for all.
Dr. C. Jeff Woods
Interim General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA